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Bow Ties Are Cool

In a season lacking a standout 3-year-old, and with stalwart Gio Ponti not having found his best form, Havre de Grace and Blind Luck have been making their own headlines. Both fillies have stellar resumes in their own rights: Blind Luck’s many wins include the Kentucky Oaks, the Alabama, the Vanity and the Del Cap, while Havre de Grace counts (among others) the Cotillion, the Apple Blossom and now, of course, the Woodward. Blind Luck holds the edge when the two have faced off, but it’s been apparent for some time now that both should expand their horizons. Havre de Grace is the second female winner of the Woodward, though her win seemed almost effortless compared to Rachel Alexandra’s all-out drive – hopefully that bodes well for the rest of the season. Trainer Larry Jones and owner Rick Porter (he of the trademark red jacket and bow tie) confirmed in the winner’s circle that they aren’t planning on ducking any future competition – Havre de Grace may end up being entered in both the Breeders’ Cup Classic as well as the Distaff Ladies’ Classic. She will likely have to face her arch-rival Blind Luck again before November, however, as both may end up in the Beldame. But let’s rewind a bit – it’s interesting to compare the two fillies’ careers to this point.

As a member of the ill-fated Saint Liam’s single crop of foals, Havre de Grace was no bargain on paper – she cost $380,000 as a yearling – but she has more than justified her purchase price by never running out of the money; capturing the same G1 race her sire is almost an added bonus at this point. By contrast, Blind Luck cost a mere $11,000 as a yearling, and she went unsold a year later. Her sire, the underrated, half-blind Pollard’s Vision, is still bargain-priced (and very much alive); while it’s tempting to imagine what he might produce with some more ‘fashionable’ mares, Blind Luck’s pedigree is one of the things that makes her so interesting – I always like to see some Broad Brush in there.

The two began their careers on opposite coasts, with Havre de Grace running well at Delaware Park (though she made her sole 2-year-old start fairly late in the year); Blind Luck began in California, mostly under the tutelage of Jerry Hollendorfer, with a solid 2-year-old career that was capped off with an unlucky third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The rivalry kicked off in earnest last summer, when Blind Luck just bested Havre de Grace three times in a row, then they finished 2-3 in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff Ladies’ Classic. This year their first meeting was at Oaklawn, with Blind Luck taking the Azeri. More recently, their thrilling Del Cap (and one really must credit both fillies when describing this year’s race) is probably going to be unchallenged for the best race of the year. Of course, if both Blind Luck and Havre de Grace make the Beldame, that title could be in jeopardy; imagine what we’ve got in store if both millionaire fillies stay healthy for Breeders’ Cup weekend (regardless of which of the marquee races they wind up in).

While there is much to look forward to (including the inevitable Horse of the Year discussion), it’s well worth relishing the moment – Jones and Porter certainly were doing just that, and they deserved it after the Eight Belles tragedy. And for the fans, it’s a rare enough thing to witness such an exciting rivalry – there are certainly shades of Sunday SilenceEasy Goer in the Blind LuckHavre de Grace matchup, and it’s entirely possible that we will eventually consider them as a set, much like Affirmed and Alydar.

Finally, if someone could persuade Rick Porter to wear a fez with his bow tie, I would be most grateful. The world needs more horse racing/geek crossover, and he’s already halfway there.

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